Vincent de Paul in Gannes-Folleville - Part II

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Gannes-Folleville or the Revelation of the Popular Mission

by: Santiago Barquín

Because of the length of this article this is the second of two parts; part one can be found at:

[This article first appeared in San Vicente de Paúl, ayer y hoy¸ XXXIII Semana de Estudios Vicencianos, Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 2008, p. 245-385].

[4] Gannes-Folleville, the birth of the popular mission

In the previous section we analyzed the historical events that occurred in Gannes and Folleville, their impact on Vincent de Paul and the various interpretations of those events, interpretations that have been made throughout the years. I believe that it is rather clear that nothing extraordinary occurred in Gannes-Folleville but rather something very ordinary in the life of Vincent de Paul and his Missionaries. The events that occurred there were simply some other occurrences among so many other similar events. But, with the passing of time and after re-reading those events, Vincent de Paul made those events symbolic for future generations. In this section we will analyze the popular missions as they existed in the time of Vincent de Paul and we will also point out some of the exaggerations that, in my opinion, have been frequently repeated and as a result have clouded the reality about this matter.

[4.1] Popular missions in the time of Vincent de Paul

Over and over we have heard it said, perhaps exaggerated, that the first mission sermon [1] occurred in Folleville. Nevertheless we know that according to Abelly, Vincent related something different: That was the first sermon of the Mission and the success that God give it on the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul, and He certainly had a plan in mind on that day. [2] One thing is clear, these two texts do not say the same thing even though there have been many attempts to show how they are similar. On text refers to “mission” with a small “m” and the other text capitalizes the word “Mission” and places the definite article before it. The first text, then, refers to a missionary task or work that was continued for a specific period of time; the second text refers to the institution that was established by Vincent de Paul and known as the Congregation of the Mission.

In fact, Folleville was not Vincent de Paul’s first mission sermon. As we stated previously, before Vincent preached in Folleville (January 1617), he had preached other sermons during popular missions. [3] This could not have been the first sermon of the Congregation of the Mission because that Institution did not come into existence until 1626. As we previously stated, however, Vincent re-read and reinterpreted the event as the years passed and viewed that as a sign from God, a sign that God was involved in his activity, involved in the mission of the Congregation. Thus, Vincent changed that event into a symbolic event, into a catalyzing movement that was to influence all future missionary activity of the Congregation. This event was established as a model for his activity, an activity par excellence for all times and for all the followers of Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul did not invent popular missions nor did he casually become involved in such missions, as though he had found a hidden treasure that had not previously been noticed by anyone. So then, Vincent de Paul had some knowledge about popular missions, about parish missions and he did not invent them. In fact in light of the documents that have been passed on to us, we can deduce that popular missions existed in France and Vincent simply utilized this methodology in his ministry with the poor country people. We want to make it clear that Vincent de Paul did not invent the phenomenon of the popular mission.

What were the popular missions like during the time of Vincent de Paul? We begin by providing a definition of popular mission and in that definition we will find some characteristics that were prevalent during the time of Vincent, as well as some information with regard to their origin. Luigi Mezzadri has studied this theme and offers us a very useful and valuable definition. He states: Popular or internal missions are a form of extraordinary and systematic preaching that is intended to convert, instruct and enflame the members of those communities that have been evangelized, even if only in a superficial manner. In the practical order such missions are a combination of spiritual devotions, doctrinal and moral catechesis, prayer and penance … all of which are directed toward the people of a specific area. These missions are different from the Advent and Lenten preaching series in which the public is limited to listening … and is also different from “closed” retreats in which there is no element of catechesis. The popular missions were constituted as prolonged moments during the Counter-Reformation movement of the sixteenth century … a pastoral movement that led to the recovery of abandoned, distant and poor areas of various countries. [4]

In other words, popular missions involve an extraordinary and systematic preaching that is intended to convert, instruct and enkindle the members of those communities that have been evangelized. Popular missions are primarily an extraordinary form of ministry and are limited to some specific period of time. They are intended to instruct and enliven, to convert and to change people who are Christian but who living out their commitment in some superficial or half-hearted manner. One of the fundamental aspects of these missions is catechesis, formation and maturing in the faith … another important aspect is the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The popular missions were a privileged means to counteract the Protestant reformation that was spreading throughout Europe.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the popular missions flourished throughout Europe, but their origin remains obscure and confused. We cannot say when they began. Some hint in this regard is found in the medieval preaching of the various itinerant mendicant orders. With regard to the origins of the popular missions we can say the following: It is difficult to speak about some absolute, precise beginning. The popular mission was not the invention of one specific person but was the result of the evolution of the medieval itinerant preaching and slowly other characteristics of the modern era were added: progressive catechesis, coordinated themes, the introduction of the division between the major catechism and the lesser catechism. [5]

The focus of the popular missions was not the solemn, thundering sermons that flowed from medieval spirituality but rather catechesis and moral instruction --- intense moral and dogmatic instruction --- coordinated and systematic preaching that was organized and oriented toward the attainment of specific proposed objectives.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the church in France sought for ways to evangelize anew Catholic Christians. The most appropriate manner appeared to be that of popular missions. France had been shaken by the stormy winds of the Protestant Reform. From what we know about the life, the times, and the spirituality of Vincent de Paul, we can say that the poor country people lived in the midst of a situation of religious ignorance and were cared for by members of the clergy, the majority of whom were themselves ignorant and immersed in destructive vices that were contrary to Christian principles and values. The situation which has just been described made it possible to say that in that era France was a “mission” country. The social, religious and political situation of that era became a cultural medium for the establishment of popular missions.

The wars of religion, the propaganda of the Huguenots, together with the decadence of the clergy, created the conditions that allowed France to be considered a “mission” country. It should be added that the Council of Trent had been accepted by the clergy by only in a unilateral manner. The popular missions were one of the fruits of the counter-reformation, as were the restoration of the priesthood and the discovery of the church as a place of charity. [6]

All of France was favorable ground for the popular missions … in fact, it was in need of those missions, especially the poor country people. The most adequate manner that was discovered to address this need was a catechetical approach. Therefore, it can be said that the French popular missions were characterized by a strong catechetical framework. [7] When Vincent de Paul was able to understand all of this in a clear manner, he ministered tirelessly on behalf of this process of evangelization. Preaching to and instructing the poor country people in order to form them in the faith and reform their customs, restoring the life and the dignity of the clergy, configuring the Christian community as the place for charitable activity … all of these became the primary focus of the ministry of Vincent de Paul who had been transformed by God in order to serve the Church. It is, then, in this sense that we can say that Vincent de Paul was a pioneer, an activist and an organizer, even though he was not the one who invented his chosen method, the popular mission.

Vincent de Paul was a missionary and he utilized the method of the popular missions even thought he adapted these to his own method, and to his own personal style and then later institutionalized his method in offering these missions to the people. With these missions he intended to stem the religious ignorance which was so prominent among the poor country people. [8] Vincent was not, however, the first person to use this method nor did he invent these, but he became one of the leading proponents of the popular missions and utilized these missions as he evangelized the French countryside once again. Before Vincent and during the time of Vincent many other people became aware of the situation of the poor and they also utilized the method of the popular missions: During the sixteenth and seventeenth century there arose in France people who became aware of the ignorance of the “poor people”. They were concerned (almost obsessively) about the fact that many of them were condemned because they did not have knowledge about the fundamental truths of the faith and because they made bad confessions. In light of the need for pastoral reform, some of these individuals began to look for new methods of evangelization. Among those individuals we find Adrian Bourdoise, Jean-Jacques Olier, Jean Eudes and Vincent de Paul. Vincent’s originality was not as an inventor but as an organizer, as one who organized and translated into the everyday life of the people the pastoral initiatives that were emerging in various concrete situations. [9]

Vincent de Paul showed himself to be a good organizer. He knew how to organize various forms of charitable activity, the Confraternities and the popular missions. He was not an inventor because as we have pointed out, the methods and means and the systems that he utilized already existed. Nevertheless, Vincent was able to organize and give a structure to these various approaches. He knew how to concretize and to structure the most appropriate pastoral approach that was necessary at that precise historical and critical moment when France was in her “golden era”. There were many people at that time who became aware of the horrible situation of the people and who also recognized that there were viable solutions to deal with that situation. Some of those individuals, like Vincent de Paul, would have their efforts officially recognized by the Church. The priests, Jean-Jacques Olier and Jean Eudes, established various missionary institutions and they would be officially recognized as saints.

In general, the Church of the seventeenth century was obsessed by the theological question: the eternal salvation of the faithful. In the writings of Vincent de Paul we find many references in that regard: the poor are being damned for want of knowing the things necessary for salvation and for lack of confession (CCD:I:112). [10] That was the theology of that era and Vincent de Paul, Jean Eudes and Jean-Jacques Olier, to name just a few, were men of their time and lived immersed in the events of their time and sought the salvation of the men of women who were alive at that time. We could say that they knew how to clothe themselves in the spirit of their era and therefore, they were able to look for adequate solutions and thus able to respond to the situation. The popular missions that the Congregation gave moved in that direction, that is, they were intended to provide a just and adequate response to the serious need of the poor country people: The Vincentian popular mission arose as a result of the spiritual and material abandonment of the poor country people and also as a result of the social and religious experience of Vincent himself who saw that “the poor are being damned for want of knowing the things necessary for salvation, and for lack of confession”. Those words of Vincent reveal his passionate concern and interest regarding the salvation of the poor and also highlight the priority of teaching the truths of the faith to the poor and doing this whenever possible.[11]

The Vincentian popular missions placed great importance on the catechetical process that was carried out during the mission. It was this orientation that distinguished the Vincentian missions from others. Instruction and the consolidation of the Christian truths through means of catechisms became the focus and the center of all the missionary activity that was developed in these country parishes. It has been said: The Vincentian popular missions were a primary part of the “catechetical missions” that arose in France during the sixteenth century. Those missions, distinct from sacramental or penitential missions and also distinct from the missions that sought to enter into controversy with the various Protestant groups, were oriented toward Christian formation and the religious conversion of the Catholic population … thus they were focused on catechesis, or perhaps it is better to say, they were focused on the catechism.[12]

Thus, the center of the Vincentian popular mission was the catechism, in other words, the purpose was to teach the catechism well so that then the faithful would be able to live good Christian lives. The popular mission attempted to form Christians in such a way that a religious conversion would take place. Thus, people would no longer be mired in the miseries of this world but would be holy, divine, Christian and devout. There was no attempt to lead people to celebrate the sacraments. Yes, the sacraments were celebrated, but these celebrations were the fruit of a conversion, a sincere conversion in the life and the attitudes of the people.

For Vincent de Paul, the teaching of the catechism during the popular mission was both vital and transcendental. He viewed it as the second activity of the mission.[13] In fact, the fruit of the mission depended on that activity. [14] If people do not know the truths of their religion, then they do not know what God has done for them and as a result they cannot believe, or hope or love. [15] We can see then that at that time the lack of knowledge concerning the truths of faith led to eternal damnation. [16] Thus, the explanation and the teaching of the catechism were central to the Vincentian popular mission and that teaching encompassed religious aspects as well as moral and social aspects. The Vincentian popular mission was intended to provoke a total transformation of the daily life of the people, but especially the people who had been abandoned and neglected in every regard: The explanation of the catechism is the center of the missionary activity and this is especially so since the primary objective of the Vincentian popular mission is to Christianize the poor country people through religious instruction … in this way the people come to know the truth of their religion. Through instruction in religious and moral truths the mission proposes to bring about a moral reform of the people, lead them back to a life of grace and thus lead them toward eternal salvation. [17]

Later we will look at some of the significant characteristics of the Vincentian popular missions that have been referred to. Before doing so, however, it is good to continue to examine the importance and the transcendence of catechetical instruction in the Vincentian popular missions. In the eyes of Vincent de Paul teaching the catechism during the time of the mission was more important than preaching … people seemed to derive more benefit from the catechism than from the sermon. [18]. The teaching of the catechism is more satisfying, more attractive and more focused on the truths of the faith than even the most brilliant sermon. It was for this reason that Vincent de Paul was firm with those who preferred preaching grand sermons rather than engaging in the repetitive and slow routine of teaching the catechism. Vincent preferred to suspend the preaching (when it was necessary) in order to provide more time for catechizing the people with regard to the truths that are necessary for salvation. [19] By way of conclusion and synthesis we can say the following: The ministry of catechesis was the preferred method of Saint Vincent when evangelizing the poor country people. He insisted that the sermons that were preached during the mission should also have a catechetical style … the content of the sermon should contain basic truths of the faith and it should be spoken in simple and familiar language.[20]

In this same regard it can also be said that Vincent de Paul saw catechesis as a way to instruct people in the truths of the faith and thus make individuals and families good Christians. In order to continue to instruct the poor country people, Vincent established some schools of charity in which people were instructed in the most rudimentary elements of culture and knowledge. These schools were intended to provide on-going, permanent formation in the truths of the faith. In other words, these schools of charity were established in order to continue the fruits of the mission and in order to harvest more abundant and better fruit: In order to guarantee continuity in the process of catechesis for the poor country children, Vincent de Paul created schools of charity. These schools had already existed but were called “small schools”, but Vincent established these as a result of the popular missions. In those schools the catechism became the most important book which was also used in teaching the children how to read. Some authors affirm that the fundamental aspect of these schools was catechesis, teaching children reading, arithmetic, etc. Without a doubt these school provided a way to continue the catechesis that had been initiated at the time of the popular mission [21].

Missions and catechesis were, for Vincent de Paul, a means of redemption, liberation and personal and social transformation. At that time, and as previously stated, the missions and catechesis became effective and valuable instruments for the social and the moral reform of the poor country people. Vincent de Paul institutionalized and utilized these means not only during the actual time of the mission but continued to utilize these means after the mission had concluded and did so through the establishment of these “schools of charity”. It can be said that the Vincentian missions became an important instrument for formation in social justice. Once again, the Christian message joined together charity and justice, thus fulfilling the commandment of love and establishing social justice in the midst of the poor country people. Saint Vincent’s first biographer states: Monsieur was only too well convinced by his own experience of the extreme need the people had of being instructed in what was required for their own salvation, and of being encouraged to make a good general confession. And since it was in the mission that one could fulfill these duties of charity with the greatest fruit and success, he applied himself to them with all his power. Insofar as he could, he recruited for the work those whom he judged to be suited, both of his own Congregation and of others (Abelly II:14).

The most serious situation that the poor country people had to confront was that of religious ignorance. Vincent viewed that situation as their most extreme need. Clearly related to the religious ignorance of the poor country people was their social and cultural ignorance, both of which were no less serious than their religious ignorance. Vincent made every effort to eliminate that situation of religious ignorance while at the same time attacking the root causes of injustice, misery and hunger. He mobilized human and material services to confront the evils that created such unjust and oppressive situations. He spent his whole life in this struggle to change the situation of the poor country people and involved his followers in the same struggle. It was for this reason that he did not act in a hurried manner. The elimination of evil is always a slow process that requires much time. Vincent wasted no time during the popular missions and remained with the people as long as was necessary even though some towns and villages had previously established some specific period of time for the duration of the mission (Abelly II:14-15). L. Mezzadri summarizes in a wonderful manner all that we have stated with regard to the social dimension of the Vincentian popular missions: The popular mission had a social effect in that it influenced the life of the people. There were two significant results: reconciliation and charity. The preaching, based on love and hope, attained the desired result as it touched and change family life and the life of the community … hatreds were put aside, murders forgiven, unity among different individuals was established, scandals put to rest and the life of the community was regulated and ordered. Frequently the reconciliations that took place were officially documented by public notaries. An important element in these missions was the establishment of a Confraternity of Charity which provided a structure to a new way of living together as Church. Many times, closely related to the establishment of the Confraternity, was the commitment of the people to provide a contract for a school teacher [22].

There is no need to anything more. The last reference has summarized everything that we have said about the renewal and the liberation of the religious and social life of the poor country people … men and women to whom Vincent proclaimed the liberating and healing good news of the gospel. Preaching, catechesis and the celebration of the sacraments, especially general confession, were the means that Vincent and other Missionaries of that era utilized in order to create a new society in France during that golden era of the seventeenth century. Today all of that might sound strange, but we have to place ourselves in the midst of that era in order to understand the structures that the poor had to confront on a daily basis. We could get the impression that those theological, religious, social and human structures created an urgency and a need for general confession. That is true, but it is also equally true that general confession resolved some serious and complex situations and also established a renewed ecclesial and social life. That is how Vincent de Paul understood all of this and some recent studies on this theme affirm the realities that we have spoken about [23].

In light of everything that we have said it should be clear that the Vincentian popular mission had various fundamental objectives: catechetical instruction, reconciliation among the faithful, conversion to the Christian way of life, general confession, the practice of charity, in a word, evangelization [24] … a new evangelization that regenerated men and women as well as the community life of the poor country people. It should be understood, then, that the Vincentian popular mission consists of preaching the gospel, making God known to the poor, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the fact that the Kingdom of God was near at hand and was especially meant for the poor … perhaps it would be better to say that the popular mission was, as Vincent de Paul liked to say, intended to make the gospel effective[25]. Indeed, in every place and on every occasion Vincent attempted to make the gospel effective and operative.

[4.2.] Folleville, a popular mission

In a recent work that presents the history of the Congregation of the Mission in the first century of its existence, we read the following: [After the events in Gannes], Vincent and Mme de Gondi agreed that Vincent would preach in Folleville the following week about general confession. The date chosen was Wednesday, 25 January. Vincent’s sermon was such a success that the people all went to confession. In fact, Vincent and a fellow priest who accompanied him were unable to respond to all the requests. They eventually turned to the Jesuits in Amiens for reinforcements[26].

But what did Vincent do in Folleville on January 25th, 1617, that is, did he preach a sermon or give a mission? As we previously saw and mindful of the distinct accounts that have been passed on to us with regard to those events and of the information contained in those accounts, we can say that Vincent de Paul gave a mission in Folleville, a popular mission that continued for several days. It seems certain that on January 25th Vincent preached a sermon that marked the beginning of the popular mission (or parish mission) … we can state that with great certainty.

In one of Vincent’s writings (the text is a conference that has been extracted from the work of Louis Abelly) we find the following affirmation: [It was] in the month of January 1617, and, on the twenty-fifth, the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, that lady asked me to preach a sermon in the church of Folleville to urge the people to make a general confession, which I did, pointing out to them its importance and usefulness. Then I taught them how to make it properly; and God had such regard … that He blessed what I said; and those good people were so moved by God that they all came to make their general confession. 1 continued to instruct them and to prepare them for the sacraments, and I began to hear their confessions. But there was such a large crowd that … (CCD:XI:3-4; cf., CCD:XII:7-8; Abelly I:61-62).

The text refers to a sermon but adds that Vincent continued to instruct and to prepare people for the reception of the sacrament. Those words, I continued to instruct them and to prepare them for the sacraments indicate that Vincent instructed the people in the truths of the faith, that Vincent explained the catechism to them. That instruction was not accomplished in one or two or three days … it had to be extended over a period of many days. Therefore, it is quite clear that the events that occurred in Folleville, events that some claim took place during the course of one day, occurred over a much longer period of time … between a minimum of fifteen to twenty one days.

The fact that in 1617 Vincent gave a popular mission in Folleville is derived from the interpretations of the many studies of Vincent de Paul’s life and work … interpretations that have been passed on to us at the present time. Louis Abelly states: The mission in Folleville was the first given by Monsieur Vincent and has always been considered as the seed for all the others to follow (Abelly I:61; CCD:XI:2-4). Louis Abelly clearly states that it was a mission. He points out that it was Vincent’s first mission and that it served as a model for future popular missions that would be given by Vincent and by the other members of the Congregation of the Mission. Pierre Coste stated the same when he wrote: The mission at Felleville clearly revealed to Vincent de Paul what God expected from him (Coste I:70).

It is obvious that we are referring to January 25th, 1617 as the date on which the mission was initiated. Louis Abelly and Pierre Coste have both stated that fact. Also during the last thirty years of the twentieth century it has been affirmed that a complete mission was given in Folleville. José María Ibáñez Burgos stated: In order to uproot the evil that Vincent saw, no other solution than to exhort the poor country people to make a general confession … During the course of several days Vincent continued to instruct the faithful of the parish and to prepare them to make a general confession … When the mission was concluded in February, Vincent, accompanied by other priests, moved on to other towns and villages where he continued for several months to give missions. It was during this same time that he attempted to discover his own mission[27].

In the text that we have just referenced, we can clearly see that over the course of several days Vincent was instructing the faithful in Folleville. In other words, Vincent was explaining the catechism, instructing people about the truths of the faith and the customs of their religion. In the same text we see reference to “the mission” in order to communicate the fact that after a certain period of time (that is when the mission was completed) Vincent and the other missionaries went to other towns and villages where they ministered in the same way. In other words, in Folleville, as well as in other places, Vincent de Paul and his followers were involved in activities that were proper to the popular mission, activities that were characteristic to the missions at that time. Thus, the missionaries carried out the normal activities of an extraordinary pastoral approach … many of which continue even today to be the activities that characterize the parish mission.

What were the activities that were proper to a parish or popular mission? Today, what are those activities? During the time of Vincent de Paul there were three proper activities or key moments in a popular mission: preaching, catechesis, and the celebration of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. In preaching there was an attempt to move the hearts of those who were listening, to provoke within them a desire to change the manner in which they were living their life. Catechesis was intended to instruct and to convince and the celebration of the sacraments was intended to reconcile the faithful and to celebrate a family feast, a communion of love. With regard to that which we have referred to as the mission in Folleville (as well as in the many other missions that were conducted at that time) there was a time for preaching, a time for catechetical instruction and a time for celebrating of the sacraments. On January 25, 1617 Vincent preached a mission sermon to begin that popular mission and then, during the days that followed, he developed other various mission activities. Teaching and instructing the people in the catechism necessarily took several days. Indeed, the heart of the mission was the catechism lessons with regard to the truths of the faith and the principles for living a moral life. It was only at the conclusion of the mission that there was a celebration of the sacraments, a restoration of the bonds of unity among the members of the community and the establishment of the Confraternity of Charity.

As we have said, near the end of his life Vincent made this mission a paradigm for every mission, a celebrative institution. Father Bernard Koch has provided us with a good explanation in this regard. I once again state: near the end of his life Vincent de Paul spoke to the Missionaries and reinterpreted the mission in Folleville and all the other missions. In that reinterpretation he saw that the mission in Folleville and the other missions that were given on the lands of the de Gondi estate as most significant. It was for this reason then that he established the mission in Folleville as a sign and a mirror for future generations. Indeed, he did not expect his followers to repeat the things that he had done there but rather he expected the Missionaries to engage in the process of discovering the will of God and then to be faithful at every moment to acting in accord with that will.

Just as Vincent de Paul reinterpreted those events near the end of his life, so now at the present time it is also good and necessary to reinterpret those first popular missions that were given by Vincent de Paul and the first Vincentian Missionaries. At the same time it is equally important to reinterpret the missions that have more recently been given. As a result of this reinterpretation we ought to discover the necessary strength that will allow us to revive these missions and make them more effective in the overall process of the new evangelization … a process in which we are exhorted to participate. Without this reinterpretation we will never be in a situation that will allow us to revive and revitalize and renew the Vincentian charism. If our proper charism is not renewed and revitalized, then it will die and disappear.

[5] Gannes-Folleville at the present time

Gannes-Folleville are not merely cities and images from some past era. They exist at the present time. The social and religious situation that was experienced by the people who lives in these two places during the seventeenth century are found in the people who inhabit those places at the present time … they are present in different ways but are very visible now, in this time of the twenty-first century. In other words, if the poor country people who lived during the time of Vincent de Paul were characterized by religious ignorance, bad confessions, quarrels and conflicts among themselves and misery of every form, then today, we would find this same situation, but now among the people who live in the large urban cities and centers of the world. That is, people throughout the world could be characterized by their unbelief, religious indifference, neo-paganism, the breakup of family and social relationships and large pockets of people who are marginalized and poor.

I intend to address all of these issues in this section. First, I will describe the social and religious situation of that former time and of the present era. I will then point out the ways in which the Congregation of the Mission utilized the popular missions in order to change the religious and social situation of the people. Lastly, I will analyze the present meaning or lack of meaning of the popular missions.

[5.1.] The religious and social situation, yesterday and today

The religious and social situation of the seventeenth century was characterized by: [1] religious ignorance, [2] difficulties in making a good confession, [3] conflicts, quarrels and disputes, [4] overall misery of the people who lived in the rural area.

The religious and social situation of the twenty-first century is characterized by: [1] unbelief, indifference, neo-paganism, [2] a feeling that there is no need for confession, [3] a breakup of family and social relationships, [4] large pockets of poor people: people who are marginalized, unemployed, immigrants.

In many respects the seventeenth century is not so distinct from the twenty-first century, especially when we examine the social-religious situation, as seen in the previous paragraphs. It is true that the description of that situation in the seventeenth and twenty-first century is not identical, but the needs of both eras are very similar.

Vincent de Paul was very aware of the social-religious situation that the poor country people had to confront and he looked for ways to remedy that situation. In light of that situation he was unable to silence his human and Christian conscience. He worked tirelessly against this social-religious evil; he devised various means to combat that situation; he created institutions and associations to struggle against and eradicate that grave evil from the society of his era. He urged other people to take steps and to not grow weary in their search for a solution. Indeed, that evil social-religious situation had no respect for time or place, rather it embraced everything, infected and destabilized everyone and everything. Because of that situation Vincent exhorted his representative in Rome to present and make known to the Vatican the terrible situation of the poor country people and the means that were necessary to resolve that situation. In Vincent’s mind one of those remedies was the Congregation of the Mission. Thus Vincent exhorted his representative in Rome to obtain the Church’s official recognition of the Congregation of the Mission. Vincent wrote the following to François du Coudray who was in Rome: You must make it understood that the poor are being damned for want of knowing the things necessary for salvation, and for lack of confession. If his Holiness were aware of this necessity, he would have no rest until he had done all he could to set things right. It is the knowledge we had of this situation that brought about the establishment of the Company, so as to remedy it in some way (CCD:I:112).

That took place in 1631. Vincent had attempted to obtain approval in 1628 but on two different occasions he received a negative response. He continued to seek official recognition because the poor country people needed the Missionaries. Indeed, the Missionaries had the adequate and recognized means to resolve the situation of the poor country people. Religious ignorance and bad confessions were the cause of the religious evil in which the poor country people in France found themselves. In that case the Missionaries were dealing with an ignorance that could be overcome and also dealing with the reality of bad confessions that could and should be corrected. The Congregation of the Mission had found the remedy for that situation and therefore Vincent sought official approval so that the Missionaries could engage in their ministry with all the authority that was possible and with all the available means so that ultimately their ministry might be effective. The Congregation had come into existence in order to remedy that situation and Vincent requested Vatican approval so that the Missionaries could carry out their ministry with greater confidence. Thus the urgency of the words, you must make it understood and if the Pope were aware of this he would have no rest…

Vincent de Paul sought pontifical recognition for the Missionaries of the Congregation. The official acceptance that he sought was not, however, for the benefit of the Missionaries, but rather for the benefit of the poor country people. The negotiations of François du Coudray were fruitful and on January 12, 1632 the Congregation of the Mission was officially recognized and granted all the favors that had been requested[28].

Then in September 1650 Vincent wrote once again to the Pope, who at that time was Innocent X. He wrote the following words as he explained the ministry of the Congregation: Most Holy Father, the end of our Institute is the salvation of poor country people. For this purpose we go about teaching in villages and towns, hear general confessions, settle quarrels and disputes, and assist the sick poor. These are our works in the rural areas (CCD:IV:71).

Vincent again insisted on the universal and integral salvation of the poor country people … human and religious salvation, social and Christian salvation. That salvation was made effective through religious instruction and the proper celebration of the sacraments, through the elimination of social, family and religions confrontations and divisions, through caring for the sick poor. He concluded his explanation with the words: these are our works in the rural areas. Vincent used similar words when he wrote (November 1650) to Cardinal Pamphili (CCD:IV:106-107).

In his book, Vicente de Paúl y los pobres de su tiempo (Vincent de Paul and the poor of his time), José María Ibáñez Burgos describes the misery and the difficulties that the contemporaries of Vincent de Paul had to confront in the French countryside. I have extracted some of those references from his book. With a certain starkness he states: It is known that the majority of the peasants and the workers from the cities endured hunger and misery during the course of some years, but especially during difficult economic times[29]. In another part of his book he was even more descriptive: During times of relative prosperity, before the great crisis of the seventeenth century, it could be said in general that the peasants and the workers experienced great difficulty in making a living from one day to the next. These people present us with a picture of semi-misery, with some passing moments of well-being and with large shadows of poverty and misery. As a result of the use of new technology the vast majority of the peasants were unable to gather together those resources that would allow them to feed their family. Indeed far too many workers who lived in the city received a salary that did not allow them to provide their family with “the daily bread” [30].

There is no need to speak further about this. It is obvious that poverty and material misery gave rise to other forms of misery (cultural, social and religious). Through his ministry Vincent de Paul desired and was able to eradicate and ease the situation of misery. He preached and instructed people in the truths of the faith and on numerous occasions he organized relief efforts which provided food to those who were hungry and tools to others so that they could cultivate the land and earn a living [31]. Vincent de Paul did not pretend to alleviate people’s misery with preaching and alms, rather he sought the total redemption of men and women, a redemption that would change their spiritual and material situation. José María Ibáñez writes: we must remembers that Vincent de Paul wanted to liberate those who were poor and wanted to enable them to earn their living through organized work and not, as he said, from the giving of alms that so frequently causes humiliation (even if in his own view the giving of alms was a sacred duty[32]. At this time I have no doubt that Vincent de Paul was totally committed to the struggle against every form of poverty. On numerous occasions Vincent stated that we must be concerned about the material and the spiritual poverty of the wretched of the earth[33] and in order to do this we must guarantee that the gospel law of solidarity and communion is made effective[34].

So then at the present time, how do we find ourselves in this regard? Have we overcome and move beyond the problems that our brothers and sisters experienced during a previous era? Have we left behind every form of ignorance, division, injustice, discord, misery and poverty? The answer would appear to be “no”. Over and over again people find themselves in the midst of such situation. Recall that we previously spoke about the fact that unbelief, indifference and neo-paganism have become the idols of humankind, the idols of more and more people from every country and every continent. God appears to have no place and families everywhere are torn apart and the dignity of the human person is trampled upon and reviled in more than one country. Finally, the number of poor people has increased as more and more people have become marginalized, unemployed and undocumented. What is the cause behind all of this? I believe this is caused by of the fact that many men and women feel they are only accountable to themselves and is also caused by men and women feeling more and more alienated from God.

The Second Vatican Council echoed those sentiments in its Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes. That document refers to the phenomenon of atheism and classifies it as one of the most serious problems of our time and therefore, one that deserves more thorough treatment (#19). The document states that this problem of atheism has various causes, among which must be included a critical reaction against religion, and more specifically, against the Christian religion. Yet as the document states, the origin of this reaction against religion and the current rejection of Christianity is often caused by Christians themselves: Believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion (#19).

Can we not find in those words an echo of the words of Vincent de Paul? In my opinion it seems to me that we can definitely hear Vincent speaking. As a result of our mistaken and incomplete teachings, our mediocre lives as Christians, and our forgetfulness of the truths of our faith, we have often concealed rather than revealed the face of God and the meaning of the Christian life. Therefore, the people of our era are in need of proper instruction in this regard … in need of a new evangelization. Pope John Paul II spoke about this need for Europe when he stated: Church in Europe, the “new evangelization” is the task set before you! Rediscover the enthusiasm of proclamation. Hear today, addressed to you at the beginning of this third millennium, the plea heard at the beginning of the first millennium, when a man of Macedonia appeared in a vision to Paul and begged him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” (Acts 16:9). Even if it remains unexpressed or even repressed, this is the most profound and genuine plea rising from the hearts of Europeans today, who yearn for a hope which does not disappoint (Ecclesia in Europa, #45).

Many parts of Europe need a first proclamation of the gospel and everywhere else in Europe, a second proclamation. Many people have not been baptized and those who have been baptized live as though they were not. They have adorned their Christianity with values and attitudes that are foreign to the gospel. Because the faith is weak or has disappeared, the Church in Europe finds itself confronted with a most serious and urgent challenge (cf., Ecclesia in Europe, #47).

Europe is at the crossroads of unbelief, religious indifference and neo-paganism … and Spain? Spain finds itself in the same situation: At the present time the society of Spain participates in the process of secularization. At the turn of this new century it can be affirmed that the process of secularization that has advanced very rapidly during the past twenty-five years, had led the society of Spain into a situation that is now similar to that of the rest of Europe[35].

The author then refers to other information that presents us with the stark reality of the religious situation in Spain. Religion is unimportant to the people who live in Spain. On an index of importance (1-10), religion rates 5.34 … religion is less important than family, health, friends, work, and financial well-being. Only politics is less important. The people in Spain are becoming more and more ego-centric and thus order their reality from the perspective of the here and now of their physical well-being and of the needs of the present moment. This is evidenced by the fact that during the past fifteen years the values of health, family and friends have become more and more important while religion and politics have become less important (in 1987 religion had an importance rating of 6.11). The lack of importance that is given to religion is more noticeable in men than in women, in young people 18-24 years of age (4.0) than older people 65+ (7.6), in people who live in large cities and whose positions would be identified with the extreme or moderate left (2.92 and 4.25) as opposed to those whose positions would be identified with the right or the extreme right (6.59 and 7.09)[36].

Eloy Bueno describes in his book, España, entre Cristianismo y paganism (Spain between Christianity and paganism) the harsh realities that I have referred to here and that I believe could be summarized with the words: Spain is returning to paganism[37]. Paganism has becomes its new religion [38] and this religion reveals the more archaic stages of human evolution of human psychology[39]. The author than states: paganism is the religion of natural men and women and of people who live in accord with the logic of natural spontaneity[40], that is, people who lived in accord with the here and now of their physical well-being and of the needs of the present moment. In light of all of this Christianity ought to clearly present the questions that are raised by the covenant relationship with God, by the following of Jesus of Nazareth, by the glory of the resurrection, and by waiting for the parousia[41]. The Episcopal Conferences of Spain is most aware of these realities as it invites Christians to confront the challenge of the dominant culture that ignores the transcendent value of the human person: The Church in Spain has to know how to live this reality in our day and at this time when the Gospel faces a formidable challenge from the dominant culture ... a culture that has emerged from an approach that ignores the transcendent value of the human person and that exalts false and limitless freedom that ultimately always turns against the human person. This is a society that declares itself as post-Christian and that is increasingly taking on all the characteristics of paganism. That is, a society in which the mention of Christianity is negatively viewed as something irrelevant, something of a former era that is now a relic[42].

Our present culture is post-Christian and pagan and is far removed from God and the gospel. Is it also far removed from humankind in whose name it clams to seek a return to some former godless era? The present events would seem to indicate that such is the case. Where God, the Christian God, the God of life and love and mercy and forgiveness is not found to be present, then men and women destroy themselves and turn against themselves and against one another. As these individuals attempt to reaffirm themselves before God, they become selfish, individualistic, unjust, proud, arrogant and unconcerned about others … and therefore, violent and with no bonds of solidarity between themselves and others. Paul VI, following Henri de Lubac, in his encyclical, Populorum Progressio, points out that situation when he states: The ultimate goal is a full-bodied humanism. And does this not mean the fulfillment of the whole man and of every man? A narrow humanism, closed in on itself and not open to the values of the spirit and to God who is their source, could achieve apparent success, for man can set about organizing terrestrial realities without God. But "closed off from God, they will end up being directed against man. A humanism closed off from other realities becomes inhuman." True humanism points the way toward God and acknowledges the task to which we are called, the task which offers us the real meaning of human life. Man is not the ultimate measure of man. Man becomes truly man only by passing beyond himself. In the words of Pascal: "Man infinitely surpasses man" (Populorum Progressio, #42).

Here then are some of the traits that characterize present day men and women of the twenty first century: atheism, paganism and inhuman. Previously we also mentioned indifference and that is quite true: From the beginning of this modern era we have witnessed a great mutation. For the first time in the history of humankind there seems to be many people who are able to live without religion. What is more surprising is that they have abandoned long standing beliefs without shedding a tear[43].

Solutions to the social and religious problems of the seventeenth century: [1] instruct people (the catechism), [2] hear general confessions (sacraments), [3] establish the Confraternity of Charity, [4] resolve disputes, discords and arguments.

Solutions to the social and religious problems of the twenty-first century: [1] proclaim the Word and give witness to the Christian life (evangelization), [2] listen to and resolve problems (service), [3] organize charitable assistance, [4] reestablish peace and family and social relationships.

Those are the signs of the new era, of these changing times. Today the human person has turned away from God and lives in the midst of the new situation that we have described. They have buried God and sealed God’s tomb and yet have not wept for the deceased. In light of this fact I, with L. González-Carvajal, ask the question: what would happen if one day God and the word of God were to disappear, leaving no hint of its existence[44]? I dare to respond with the words of Karl Rahner, that at this moment the human person has ceased to be human and has engaged in a process of regressive evolution, thus becoming a skillful animal[45] …or men and women, as individuals and as a group, have regressed to the level of simple animals who are gifted with a certain ingenuity[46] .

The view of the future is rather bleak, but we should not lose hope. We must begin to move in a positive direction. Didn’t Vincent de Paul do that? Didn’t the popular missions change the situation of the poor country people in seventeenth century France? We know that is exactly what happened! The Missionaries instructed the people through means of the catechism; they prepared people to receive the sacraments; they organize the Confraternities of Charity in order to provide for the needs of the people, especially those individuals and families that had the greatest need. They were able to resolve personal and community disputes and disagreements. Today, the same thing needs to happen. In other words, there is a need to renew our effort in order to engage in the process of the new evangelization. We must be attentive to the needs of individuals, families and whole communities. At the same time we must organize charitable assistance and engaged in the struggle to make social justice a reality. We must re-establish peace and community life on an individual level as well as on a regional and worldwide level. In other words, everything must centered around the process of evangelization and charity: for believers, the challenge of unbelief becomes a challenge for the new evangelization[47]. John Paul II, when speaking about charity and the radical manner in which people are exhorted to practice this virtue, stated: charity of its nature opens out into a service that is universal; it inspires in us a commitment to practical and concrete love for every human being (Novo Millennio Ineunte, #49). He then addressed the issue of the first and second evangelization and stated: Everywhere, then, a renewed proclamation is needed even for those already baptized … Many of the baptized live as if Christ did not exist …The great certainties of the faith are being undermined in many people by a vague religiosity lacking real commitment … some people have been affected by the spirit of an immanentist humanism, which has weakened the faith … “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). Will he find faith in our countries, in this Europe of ancient Christian tradition? This is an open question which clearly reveals the depth and the drama of one of the most serious challenges which our Churches are called to face. It can be said as the Synod emphasized that this challenge frequently consists not so much in baptizing new converts as in enabling those already baptized to be converted to Christ and his Gospel: in our communities we need to be seriously concerned about bringing the Gospel of hope to all those who are far from the faith or who have abandoned the practice of Christianity (Ecclesia in Europa, #47).

A member of the Congregation of the Mission addressed similar challenges in an article on popular missions, Missiones populares ayer y hoy [Popular Missions, yesterday and today] which appeared in Diccionario de Espiritualidad Vicenciana [Dictionary of Vincentian Spirituality]. He proposed that we walk along a path that I view as most necessary at the present time. We must opt for this path and follow it in a radical and urgent manner if we want to live in accord with our Christian and Vincentian spirit and if we are to live with integrity. Time is precious and the needs are many and urgent and so many people in the world are unsatisfied and unhappy. They seem to be devoured and encompassed in such a way that they have lost their dignity. Their life-style, that is, their condition as persons and creatures who have come forth from the hand of God has been trampled upon. Even though the text is rather lengthy, it is worth referencing: The catechetical focus that was such an important dimension of the Vincentian popular mission is indispensable at the present time. Indeed, popular missions today will be relevant to the degree in which they respect this catechetical focus. Today, however, the extent of religious ignorance is incredible. People today are very concerned about acquiring a certain cultural level, concerned about their professional formation … an yet the majority of Catholics have not been concerned about formation in the religious dimension of their life. According to some studies many so called Catholics do not believe in the fundamental truths, such as the resurrection or the divinity of Jesus Christ. Many Catholics have never been catechized in the area of morality and dogma and as a result, few can explain their faith. Catholic Christians are offered many opportunities to participate in the celebration of the sacraments but are presented with few opportunities for evangelization and for serious catechetical formation. One of the objectives of the popular mission today should be to sensitize and motivate and organize reflection groups of youth people and adults for the purpose of on-going catechesis (formation) … As we proclaim a time of mission, we must focus on catechetical formation. The content of the message that we proclaim must contain the fundamental truths of our faith. We should proclaim this message in a simple manner, in a style that is intelligible to everyone and that is adapted to the circumstances of people, place and time. Therefore, it is indispensible to know the reality of the people and to draw closer to them in their everyday environment. This does not mean that we place less value on the sacramental dimension. In fact, the popular mission should help people to move beyond a routine celebration of the sacraments, a celebration that is lacking in meaning and content, and thus lead people to a joyful and participative celebration of the sacraments that is also an expression of their faith and their life as Christians. All of this supposes a process of evangelization that is initiated and motivated by the popular mission[48].

The same author then states: In a society such as ours that is saturated with words and unfulfilled promises, in a society where unbelief is so prominent, it is most important that evangelization include a clear option on behalf of the poor. A commitment on behalf of the marginalized is one of the few things that can lead people to ask questions and thus make possible the acceptance of the explicit proclamation. Because this dimension is so vital to the process of evangelization in general and more specifically to the Vincentian popular mission, therefore from the beginning of the mission it is important to know the needs of the people and this can only be accomplished by studying the reality and by visiting families. In the explicit proclamation of the good news we must never forget to sensitize and motivate the members of the Christian community. Also a mission cannot be concluded without having given some organization to the social and charitable activity of the community. The situation of “the heretic” in Montmirail continues to be relevant today. If the Church ignores the world of the people who live in remote areas, the world of the people who live in the barrios on the peripheries of the large cities, in other words, if the Church ignores the world of the poor, it will have no credibility. In that sense, then, the popular missions offer a wonderful service to the Church. Therefore we must not only evangelize by proclaiming the good news but we must do this by opting for those who are poor. Is not this a pending matter for the renewal of popular missions?[49]

Ander Arregui, an active Missionary, has presented in those paragraphs a list of actions and attitudes that are necessary in order to renew the mission that the Church should fulfill at the present time. Therefore, with Ander, we ask: are not those actions and attitudes that have been described and highlighted the pending issues not only for the renewal of the popular missions but also pending issues for the renewal of every form of pastoral ministry? I believe that we can say “yes”! I have the impression that we are experiencing that which occurs to many students in our schools who give little importance to pending issues (like suspension) … it seem that we give little importance to this problem and therefore, we do not value things as we ought.

In our parishes there is still too much emphasis on worship and the celebration of the sacraments that are often done with little faith, done out of habit and therefore void of meaning. At the same time we do not dedicate sufficient time to catechesis, to faith formation that is based on gospel and moral criteria. Do the popular missions that we continue to give focus on preaching or catechesis? If they focus on preaching then that is probably one of the reasons that they are not very successful and not requested. So often the popular missions are given with little enthusiasm and zeal … and as long as things continue in this manner religious ignorance will continue to increase. It must also be stated that there is little demand from Catholics for on-going religious formation. Therefore, it follows that pastors and those responsible for the Christian community offer few opportunities for such formation. This combination has created the present situation in which so many people have no knowledge or understanding of faith and morality and the gospel message. Our public profession of the faith and of the Christian life is weak, insincere and dying … not something that would others would find attractive. In other words, we live and celebrate the sacraments and we profess our faith as if this were just one more social event in our life, as if this were some profane, “civil” religious celebration.

We can ask, do our parishes and ecclesial communities live, celebrate and act in accord with the demands of charity? Her we understand charity from the perspective of love and justice. Love-justice is the thermometer of Christian life and the culmination of the Eucharistic celebration. Vincent de Paul gave much importance to this dimension because he saw this as the means which made the gospel effective. He viewed the mystery of love and service from the perspective of the gospel, from the narration of the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Vincent did not allow his conscience to become numb, rather he heard the Christological demand of the gospel, namely, what is done or not done to the little ones and the most needy members of society, is done or not done to Christ. Providing a structure to the charitable activity of the people was most significant in Vincent’s mission and in that of his followers, and therefore, must also be significant for us and for the Church in general. Charitable and loving service become clear and effective signs that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church. Indeed, as we imitate Christ and live with love and charity toward others, we give credibility to the Church’s activity and to the process of evangelization. Therefore, today more than ever before, the Church and every Christian community must opt for the poor … for us as Vincentians this option is radical and total … for others it is preferential.

Can the Congregation of the Mission confront the present day challenges? What must we do specifically in order to act in accord with our mission? It is not enough to look at the past and repeat it. In the next section we will address those questions.

[5.2.] The Congregation of the Mission and Popular Missions

The Congregation of the Mission came into existence with a missionary vocation. The origin of the congregation is intimately related to the popular missions that Vincent and others gave in the town and villages of the de Gondi estate. The foundational contract of April 17, 1624 refers to that reality and the contract was signed by Françoise Marguerite de Silly. Philippe-Emmanuel de Gondi, Jean Dupuys, Nicolas Le Boucher and Vincent de Paul. The principal ideas that are contained in that contract are the following:

Present in person before the undersigned notaries and attorneys of our Sire the King at the Châtelet of Paris were the noble and powerful Lord Messire Philippe-Emmanuel de Gondi, Comte de Joigny, Marquis des lles-d'Or, Chevalier of the Orders of His Majesty, Councillor in his councils, Captain of fifty men-at-arms of his guards, his Lieutenant General on the Seas of the Levant, and General of the Galleys of France; together with his wife, the noble and powerful Lady Françoise-Marguerite de Silly, Baronne de Montmirail and other places, etc., authorized by the said Lord her husband for the implementation of this document. They willingly, freely, and voluntarily have unanimously and jointly stated and declared that some years ago God had given them the desire to have Him honored on their own estates and in other places, and they reflected that, since His Divine Goodness has provided in His infinite mercy for the spiritual needs of the inhabitants of the towns of this kingdom through a large number of Doctors and religious, who preach, catechize, and exhort them and preserve them in the spirit of devotion, only the poor people of the rural areas remain, as it were, abandoned.

They thought, therefore, that this situation could be remedied to a certain extent through the pious association of some priests recognized for their knowledge, piety, and ability, who would be willing to renounce the conveniences of the said towns as well as all benefices, offices, and dignities of the Church, so that, in accord with the wishes of the Prelates, each within the limits of his own diocese, they could devote themselves entirely and exclusively to the salvation of the poor common people. They would go from village to village, at the expense of their common purse, to preach, instruct, exhort, and catechize those poor people and encourage all of them to make a good general confession of their whole past life, without accepting for this a remuneration of any kind or manner whatsoever, so as to distribute freely the gifts they have freely received from the generous hand of God. And to accomplish this … they have resolved to constitute themselves as patrons and founders of this good work. For this purpose the Lord and Lady, by this document, have donated and given as alms and do donate and give as alms the sum of forty-five thousand livres. Of this amount there has now been handed over in cash to Messire Vincent de Paul … thirty-seven thousand livres… in accord with the following clauses and duties:

Namely, that the Lord and Lady have entrusted and do entrust to M. de Paul the authority to elect and choose, between this time and a year from now, six priests, or the number that the income of the present foundation can support, whose knowledge, piety, morals, and integrity of life are known to him, to serve under his direction in this work during his lifetime…

That these priests and others who desire to commit themselves to this holy work, now or in the future, will devote themselves entirely to the care of the aforementioned poor people in the rural areas and, for this purpose, will bind themselves neither to preach nor to administer any sacrament in towns in which there is an archbishopric, bishopric, or presidial court, except in the case of very great necessity or to their servants behind closed doors, in the event that they [their servants] retire to a house in any of these towns;

That they will expressly renounce all offices, benefices, and dignities. If, however, it should happen that some Prelate or patron desires to give one of them a parish in order to administer it well …

That these priests will live in common under obedience to M. de Paul in the manner mentioned above, and to their Superior … under the name of Company, Congregation, or Confraternity of the Fathers or Priests of the Mission;

That those who will be accepted subsequently for the work will be obliged to have the intention of serving God in it in the above-mentioned manner and to observe the regulations that will be drawn up among them concerning it;

That they will be bound to go once every five years throughout the estates of the Lord and Lady to preach, catechize, and do all the aforesaid good works there…

That they will work in these missions from the beginning of October until the month of June …

And, since the months of June, July, August, and September are unsuitable for the mission because the country people are too busy at that time with manual labor, the aforementioned Fathers will use their time to teach catechism in the villages on Sundays and feast days, to help the Pastors who ask for them, and to study so as to become more capable later on of assisting their neighbor for the glory of God.

For this is how everything was stated and agreed upon among the parties, promising, obliging, each one to what he is entitled, even the Lord and Lady, for the fulfillment of this document …

Drawn up and signed on the afternoon of April 17, 1625, in the town house of the Lord and Lady on rue Pavée, Saint-Sauveur parish, in Paris… (CCD:XIIIa:213-217).

Thus, according to the foundational contract of the Congregation of the Mission, the founders of this institution and its first financial benefactors were Françoise Marguerite and Philippe-Emmanuel. Both of those individuals were concerned about the religious situation of the people living on their lands and turned to Vincent de Paul and requested him to find a group of priests who would be willing to give missions on their estate. The priests had to live together in community and had to minister together as a team. Why this request? … because the ministry of giving popular missions was one of team work rather than the ministry of any one individual. Furthermore, because those missions were to be given to people living in the rural areas (the religious needs of the people living in the cities were adequately met) the priests would have to travel from place to place and it was better to do this as a group. The poor country people had been spiritually abandoned and there was an urgency in resolving that situation. More specifically, every five years a team of good priests should proclaim the gospel to these people, instruct them in the truths of their faith, teach them the catechism, help them to make a good general confession of their whole life and help them to celebrate the sacraments worthily. The de Gondi’s would cover all the costs involved in giving those popular missions. Thus they established a foundation with forty-five thousand livres and entrusted that fund to Vincent de Paul, his team and his followers.

The priests who engaged in this ministry ought to renounce all ecclesiastical offices, benefices and dignities. Only in that manner would they be free from other responsibilities and thus able to minister full-time in the mission and vocation that was seen as necessary for the salvation of those poor country people. They were to live in community and in obedience to M. Vincent; they were to serve and to minister as rural missionaries; they were to minister in the towns and villages from October to June and in the other months they were to recover their strength and prepare for their ministry in the following season. During that period of rest they were to help the local clergy in their pastoral ministry.

This new team of rural missionaries, priests of the Mission, was officially recognized by the Church by Pope Urban VIII when on January 12, 1632 the bull, Salvatori Nostri, was promulgated (CCD:XIIIa:297-304). In that document the events that led to the recognition of the Congregation are described as well as the steps that were involved in that process. According to the document, the primary purpose of the new Congregation, as intended by Vincent de Paul and the de Gondi’s, is stated: The principal purpose and special goal of this Congregation and its members is, by the grace of God, along with their own salvation to dedicate themselves to the salvation of those who live on the states, in the countryside, on farms, in hamlets, and in insignificant places. In cities and towns, however, that are endowed with titles of archbishoprics, bishoprics, Parlements, and courts of assizes, the clerics and priests of this Congregation perform no public functions of their Institute; privately, they may, nevertheless, instruct those who are to be promoted to Orders and have been sent to them for a two-week period before ordination. So that these Orders may be received worthily, they make a spiritual retreat and a general confession of their whole lives; these priests also foster in them special devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, to the sacred mystery of the Incarnation, and to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (CCD:XIIIa:298).

Like the foundational contract, the papal Bull stipulated the ministry of the priests of the Mission as that of providing for the salvation of the souls of the people who lived in the towns and villages in the most humble and remote places. The salvation of souls? … that was the language of that era. That phrase, however, referred to the liberation, sanctification and redemption of those persons, who, in this case, lived in the rural areas and who, because of historical circumstances, had no one to nourish them with the Word of God or anyone to celebrate the sacraments with them. That same situation, however, was not found in the large cities where the civil and religious authorities resided. Those cities were usually saturated with priests and religious who were able and prepared to care for and tend to the spiritual needs of the people. Therefore, the members of the Congregation could not minister publically in those cities, except in those situations when they were giving retreats to the ordinands. Those retreats were intended to provide good and holy priests to the people of those areas where popular missions had been given … thus the faithful of those places would not be condemned to live again in some new form of spiritual misery.

At the conclusion of the previous reference we saw mention of three devotions and mysteries that Vincent de Paul instilled in his followers in order to sustain them in their vocation and to help them fulfill their ministry. Those religious mysteries and devotions were namely, devotion to the most holy Trinity and an understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ accompanied by an imitation of the Virgin Mary. It could be said that through such devotion to the Blessed Trinity and through deepening the understanding of his followers of the other mysteries and devotions Vincent sought to form the Missionaries in the love of God, in the humility and obedience of Jesus Christ and in the Christian virtues that characterized the life and the person of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Those mysteries and devotions, those fundamentals of theology, were viewed as the most adequate means that would enable the Missionaries to dedicate themselves to the liberating evangelization of the poor country people.

We know that Vincent was careful to remind his followers about all that we have spoken about here … and he did that with relative frequency. He would tell them that the proclamation of salvation to the poor country people through preaching and teaching the Word of God was the primary purpose of the Congregation. That was most important and everything else was viewed as accessory. Those ideas were reflected in the October 25th, 1643 repetition of prayer: Now to work for the salvation of poor country people is the main purpose of our vocation, and all the rest is only accessory to it; for we would never have worked in ministry for the ordinands and in seminaries for the clergy if we had not judged that this was necessary to maintain the people and preserve the fruits of missions given by good priests … (CCD:XI:121).

In the words of Vincent de Paul, to work for the salvation of the poor country people was the main purpose of the Congregation of the Mission; the other ministries were accessories and had meaning because they helped to preserve and maintain the fruits of the ministry of the popular missions. Therefore, the popular missions constitute the being and the ministry of the Congregation of the Mission. Other forms of ministry and activity are valid if they are in harmony with the primary purpose, that is, if they lead toward the achievement or the consolidation of that purpose. If they do not, then, they have nothing to do with the Congregation or with the ministry of the popular missions. At that time Vincent de Paul re-read the official documents and the will of the founders in that manner. Perhaps at the present time we have to re-read those documents and re-interpret the will of the founder … but we can never betray the spirit and the meaning of the Congregation which is the evangelization of the poor.

The evangelization of the poor through the ministry of the popular missions among the French peasants at the time of Vincent de Paul was the means through which the missionaries achieved their sanctification and the fullness of their being as Christians and as missionaries. That idea was highlighted in the foundational documents[50] and also in the reflections that followed the establishment of the Congregation. That same reality is recognized today when we speak about the apostolic activity of the popular missions and their relationship to the Missionaries: the apostolic activity becomes the source and the means of holiness for the missionaries in as much as they live in accord with the example and the mission of Jesus Christ[51]. The popular missions were, are and will be the source of the sanctification and the Christian maturing of the Vincentian Missionary. The more they dedicate themselves to this ministry, the better they, as good disciples of the Lord, will be able to imitate Jesus Christ, the evangelizer of the poor. In this way they will carry out the mission in the manner that it was transmitted to the apostles and disciples.

In the past the popular missions were the sign or the standard of the members of the Congregation of the Mission. Are they that sign/standard at the present time? Will they be that sign/standard of the future Missionaries? It is not easy to engage in a sincere and profound examination of conscience with regard to the past or the present …and with regard to the future it is also not easy to make some prediction with regard to this matter, especially if we want to be honest about this. Nevertheless, some Vincentian specialist has dared to do that. I am referring to Jaime Corera and his work, Servir a los pobres es ir a Dios (To serve the poor is to reach out to God)[52]. I will make use of his witness. What does Jaime Corera say with regard to the primary purpose of the Congregation of the Mission? As he speaks about the Vincentian Societies of Apostolic Life, the Congregation of the Mission and the Company of the Daughters of Charity, he insists upon the Vincentian heritage and clearly explains that the missionaries are followers of Jesus Christ since they evangelize the poor and since they attempt to reproduce in their own life the experience of Jesus Christ as one who was sent by the Father in order to establish the Kingdom of God. Therefore, if one wants to be an authentic Vincentian it is not enough to be juridically bound to the Congregation that was established by Vincent de Paul, rather one must relive, within the Congregation that he established, the spiritual experience of the following of Jesus Christ which was the reason for the establishment of the Congregation</ref> Ibid., p. 143-144.</ref>. To be legally recognized as a member of the Congregation of the Mission does not mean that one is therefore an authentic Vincentian missionary.

And what should Vincentian missionaries do if they want to live in accord with their spirituality? Jaiime Corera proposed a specific plan that demands three activities: to know the experience of Vincent de Paul, to relive that experience and to minister together as a community or as a team[53]. First of all, to know the experience of Vincent de Paul … to know someone well is essential if one is to also love that person. Therefore, neither the Congregation of the Mission nor an individual member can attempt to live the Vincentian spirit without first taking the time to understand what that spirit actually is[54]. Secondly, relive Vincent’s experience … but how can we relive today the spirit and the experience of Vincent de Paul? There is only one response to that question and that is we must begin where Vincent began, changing our attitude, putting aside every form of selfishness and entering into a deeper relationship with God and with the poor. In order to live today the spiritual experience of Vincent de Paul we must begin in the same way that he began: we must be converted and renounce every form of selfishness[55]. The renunciation of selfishness, which is a part of every one of us, is absolutely necessary if we intend to dedicate our whole life to the service of the poor and to live as disciples of Christ. In serving the poor there is no better to do that than by entering into direct contact with them. Finally, the mission of the Vincentian missionary can only be accomplished from a community perspective and in communityall the institutions established by Vincent de Paul (and that includes the lay establishments) suppose an experience of following Jesus Christ in order to evangelize the poor and in order to evangelize the poor as a member of a team or a community[56]. That which seems so obvious is not easy to do. We live together but are we a community? Do we minister together as a community?

The members of the Congregation of the Mission are followers of Jesus Christ and members of the Church. They are called to accomplish a task or a mission and to do that in a particular way, that is, by dedicating themselves totally and exclusively to the poor[57]. Even though every Christian must be concerned about those who are poor, nevertheless, Vincentians have been entrusted in a singular manner with only those are poor and most weak. This dedication to the poor and the weaker members of society has to become the center and the focus of all Vincentians … has to become the only objective of their pastoral activity[58]. Every Vincentian missionary, worthy of that name, ought to be a missionary for the poor[59]. This evangelizing service requires physical closeness, personal and community closeness, with the poor so that such contact becomes solidarity with the poor. In other words, only by ministering in close contact with the poor (doing that together with the poor and among the poor) can we come to understand their needs and the causes of their situation. This radical demand means than the missionaries must be provided with a solid theological formation as well as formation in the Church’s social teaching. Only in that way will the missionaries, in turn, be able to offer the poor an integral salvation, a total liberation.

Vincentian missionaries fulfill their vocation by offering popular missions because that was a decision that was made by Vincent de Paul. It was not only a personal decision that affected Vincent but was also a congregational decision. The Congregation of the Mission came into existence in order to give missions, in order to dedicate itself to the ministry of evangelization and to making the gospel effective among the poor country people (CCD:XII:75-76). According to the will of our Founder and his teachings, popular missions are the primary means to attain the aim of the Congregation of the Mission. The work of missions is the primary and the most important of all ministries to people.[60] This has not always been the case and at the present time popular missions do not occupy a central place in the pastoral activity of the members of the Congregation of the Mission even though this is stipulated in our Constitutions[61].

At the present time many Vincentian Provinces are not engaged in popular missions. Furthermore, the popular missions that continue to be offered focus on evangelization through the word but do not initiate some community service of charity. Such service is vital in order that a popular mission might conform to the Vincentian spirit. That service on behalf of charity was part of the post-mission structure that was established by Vincent de Paul and his followers. Jaime Corera states: at the time of our Founder, popular missions included the establishment of a Confraternity of Charity whose members were to provide not only spiritual assistance but also material assistance to the sick poor. The poor children and adolescents were to be taught a trade and skills that would enable them to earn a living and thus escape poverty. The establishment of these Confraternities was viewed as an important dimension of the popular missions and was intended to flow from the catechetical-missionary process[62].

Authentic Vincentian evangelization involves preaching the Word of God, instructing people about the truths of faith and morality, celebrating the sacraments and creating an environment of peace and community living and helping people to live a dignified life through the practice of charity and the establishment of bonds of solidarity. Charity and solidarity are the necessary fruits of an authentic mission and do not simply mean that those who suffer are accompanied in their situation of pain but also means that people are freed from their misery and offered a new way of life, a human and Christian life, a life with dignity. Thus these persons are provided with all the necessary means that will enable them to overcome their situation of misery. These elements of charity and solidarity are as important if not more important than the other elements that we have pointed out. John Paul II, in his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, clearly states: that every Christian must make a commitment to practical and concrete love for every human being and they must know how to contemplate Christ, especially in the faces of those with whom he himself wished to be identified: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" [Matthew 25:35-37] (Novo Millennio Ineunte, #49). The document then goes on to states: This Gospel text is not a simple invitation to charity: it is a page of Christology which sheds a ray of light on the mystery of Christ. By these words, no less than by the orthodoxy of her doctrine, the Church measures her fidelity as the Bride of Christ (Novo Millennio Ineunte, #49).

Charity and solidarity for and with the poor and for and with those in need is a demand of faith and a demand of the process of evangelization. Furthermore, they are signs that our faith in Jesus Christ is authentic and signs that we are walking along those paths that Jesus pointed out to those who were to lead his flock. Faith lived in that manner is precisely what the poor are demanding … and during the time of Vincent de Paul the popular missions were intended to make the realities of charity and solidarity and faith more visible. If at this time people are demanding charity, justice and solidarity, then that is an irrefutable sign that those elements have not been given their proper importance in planning and giving popular missions. Jaime Corera is unambiguous in recognizing that fact. He laments the fact that such has occurred in the missions that were and that are presently given by Vincentian missionaries. The aspect of “material” evangelization-redemption has disappeared with the passing of time. We do not know why or when that happened but we do know that the majority of the popular missions that were given during the first half of the twentieth century and many that were given in the second half of that century and that are given at the present time have ignored this aspect of “material” evangelization-redemption[63].

Jaime Corera distinguishes the “material” element of the mission (the establishment of the confraternity that will promote and assist those who are poor) from the “spiritual” element (the catechesis and the preaching on aspects of the faith and Christian customs). They are two aspects that should not be viewed or placed in opposition to one another. Neither element should be eliminated from the popular mission. Both are necessary for the process of evangelization to produce the fruit of total and integral redemption, liberation and salvation … elements that Jesus gave to his own process of evangelization.

Yet these elements have in fact been placed in opposition to one another. The spiritual element has received much emphasis and the material element has been cast aside. Why? Why has the element of charity been abandoned? Is it not because the missionaries have disconnected themselves from the world of the poor, have camouflaged and cheapened the radical language and power of the gospel? The answer is not easy nor is it easy to find the causes of this situation. What is certain is that people establish bonds of solidarity with the poor when they experience in some way in themselves the effects of poverty. In order for the misery and the needs of the poor to be able to question us we must place ourselves in the midst of those who are poor, we must feel with them and suffer with them and experience the blows of injustice and of indignity that they are forced to endure.

In light of these realities we can see that the members of the Congregation of the Mission have to position themselves anew, have to undertake a new journey and reach out to the poor, have to travel to those places where people experience the most crude and cruel and unjust forms of poverty. The journey toward the poor is the missionaries’ most exquisite mission and vocation. Good Vincentian missionaries never wait for the poor to come to them or to knock at their door, but rather they go out to meet the poor[64]. At the present time those who are truly poor are found in the so-called third and fourth world. Therefore, renewed and authentic missionary zeal should be revealed by the missionaries’ willingness to go to those countries and peoples of the third world, to the pockets of poverty and suffering of the fourth world where people live in misery and yet are surrounded by the opulence of the first and second world[65].



  1. José María Román, St. Vincent de Paul: A Biography, translated by Sister Joyce Howard, D.C., Melisende, London, 1999, p. 113-116; CCD:XI:4; [Translator’s Note: unfortunately in the English translation of Román’s work the word “Mission” is capitalized and also has a definite article before it … this makes it more difficult to understand the difference that the author of this presentation is attempting to state. In an attempt to be faithful to the Spanish text, I have used the word “mission” with a small “m”].
  2. CCD:XI:4; Abelly I:61.
  3. Abelly I:55-56.
  4. Luigi Mezzadri, “Misiones populares” [Popular Missions], Diccionario de espiritualidad vicenciana [Dictionary of Vincentian Spirituality], CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 1995, p. 389.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., p. 139
  7. Ibid.
  8. Cf., A. Arregui, “Misiones populares ayer y hoy” [Popular missions, yesterday and today], in Diccionario de espiritualidad vicenciana [The Dictionary of Vincentian spirituality], CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salmanca, 1995, p. 398.
  9. Ibid.; cf., A. Dodin, “La catequesis en San Vicente de Paúl” [Catechesis in Saint Vincent de Paul’s methodology], Vicente de Paúl y la Catequesis [Vincent de Paul and Catechesis], CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 1979, p. 34.
  10. This letter, dated 1631, was written to Francois du Coudray, a priest of the Congregation who had been sent to Rome in order to obtain pontifical approbation for his Institute … the words that are referenced here were intended to encourage him and to highlight the urgency of his task.
  11. P. Domínguez, “Catequesis” [Catechesis], Diccionario de espiritualidad vicenciana [Dictionary of Vincentian Spirituality], CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 1995, p. 54; cf. CCD:I:112-113, 119; XI:121-122, 342-345, 391.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Cf., L. Mezzadri, article previously referenced, p. 396.
  14. CCD:I:419; XIIIa:370; L. Mezzadri, article previously referenced, p. 396; P. Domínguez, article previously referenced, p. 54-55.
  15. CCD:XII:71-73; cf., L. Mezzadri, article previously referenced, p. 396.
  16. Cf., P. Domínguez, article previously referenced, p. 54; J.M. Ibáñez, Vicente de Paúl y los pobres de su tiempo [Vincent de Paul and the poor of his time], Sígueme, Salamanca, 1077, pp. 310-311; J.C. Dhotel, Les origins du Catéchisme modern d’apréws les premiers manuels imprimés en France, Aubier Editions Montaige, Paris, 1967, pp. 160, 164.
  17. P. Domínguez, article previously referenced, p. 54; C. Ricardi, “La missione popolare nel pensiero di San Vincenzo”, Annali della Missione, 71, (1964) #3-4, p. 213.
  18. CCD:VI:400; P. Dominguez, article previously referenced, p. 54-55.
  19. CCD:I:228; P. Dominguez, article previously referenced, p. 54-55.
  20. P. Dominguez, article previous referenced, p. 55.
  21. A. Arregui, article previously referenced, p. 401; cfr., E. Germain, Languages de la foi à travers l’histoire, Fayard, Paris, 1972, p. 74-76.
  22. L. Mezzadri, article previously referenced, p.397.
  23. Cfr., CCD:III:269; X:IIIa:214, 218, 226, 231, 264, 278, 280-281; XIIIb:282-283. This way of thinking is reflected by authors such as J. Chalimeau, Un chemin d’histoire, Fayard, Paris, 1981, pp. 173-175 and A. Arreguir, article previously rerferenced, p. 399. A. Arregui states: The fundamental objective of the Vincentian missions was to instruct people with regard to the truths of the faith, the truths necessary for salvation and to inspire sentiments of conversion that would lead people to make a general confession. The sacraments were celebrated after intensive catechesis and therefore the participation in the sacraments was seen as an expression of conversion and as a means to lead an authentic Christian life. It is true that there was a concern and an insistence on general confession and that was in accord with the mentality of the era and the existing pastoral situation. Canonical structures obliged people to confess their sins during specific times of the liturgical calendar. To confess certain sins, however, to someone who was known by the penitent, could be quite difficult. Also in some specific cases the pastor did not have the faculties to absolve and many priests lacked adequate formation in the celebration of this sacrament. An unbending moral code and certain ideas about God created in many people a scrupulous conscience. Many Catholics seemed to have an interior block that prevented them from growing in the faith, from participating in the sacraments and from celebrating their Christian life. To make a general confession signified liberation from that interior block and disposed one to accept the Christian message. General confession came to be viewed as an important step in growing in the faith and an equally important step in the process of conversion in which certain signs had previously been manifested: enemies reconciled, restitutions made, divisions between family members and friends overcome … Thus, the celebration of the sacrament was viewed as the culmination of this process.
  24. Cf., A. Arregui, article previously referenced, p. 399; José María Ibáñez, Vicente de Paúl y los pobres de su tiempo [Vincent de Paul and the poor of his time], Sígueme, Salamanca, 1977, p. 312. The latter author states: Vincent de Paul saw the fundamental objective of the mission in the following way: to preach the gospel, to make God known to the poor, to proclaim Jesus Christ to the poor and to tell them that the Kingdom of God is near and that the Kingdom is for the poor.
  25. CCD:XII:75-76; cf., S. Barquín, “La liberación de los pobres. Regla vicenciana para hacer efectivo el evangelio de Jesucristo”, Hacer efectivo el evangelio y mundo actual, XXVII Semana de Estudios Vicencianos, CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 2002, p. 243,-340.
  26. Luigi Mezzadri, CM and José María Román, CM, The Vincentians: A General History of the Congregation of the Mission [1: From the Foundation to the End of the Seventeenth Century, 1625-1697], translated by Robert Cummings; edited by Joseph E. Dunne and John E. Rybolt, CM, New City Press, Hyde Park, ,New York, 2009, p. 10.
  27. José María Ibáñez Burgos, Vicente de Paúl y los pobres de su tiempo [Vincent de Paul and the poor of his time], Sígueme, Salamanca, 1977, pp. 215-216; Id., “La sociedad rural en la vocación de San Vicente de Paúl”, Vicente de Paúl y la evangelización rural, V Semana de Estudios Vicencianos (September 6-11, 1976), CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 1977. P. 46.
  28. Cf. Footnote #1 of Letter #72 (CCD:I:111-112) states: We know the fruitless steps that the Saint had taken in 1628 to obtain approbation for his Institute. The only way to attain it was to have a procurator in Rome, whose job it would be to represent him and negotiate in his name. François du Coudray was chosen and left in May 1631. On January 12, 1633, the Congregation of the Mission was officially recognized and the favors requested for it were granted.
  29. José María Ibáñez Burgos, Vicente de Paúl y los pobres de su tiempo [Vincent de Paul and the poor of his time], Sígueme, Salamanca, 1977, p. 64.
  30. Ibid., p. 68.
  31. Ibid., p. 156-205
  32. ) Ibid., p. 327; cf., CCD:XIIIa:173-179, XIIIB:67-73.
  33. Ibid., p. 329.
  34. Ibid., p. 329.
  35. J.D. González, “Jóvenes y religiosidad” (Youth and religiosity), AA.VV., Jóvenes españoles 2005 (Spanish Youth 2005), Fundación Santa Marta, SM, 2006, p. 244.
  36. Cf., Ibid., p. 246-247.
  37. E. Bueno, España, entre cristianismo y paganism (Spain, between Christianity and paganism), San Pablo, Madrid, 2002.
  38. Ibid., p. 214.
  39. Ibid., p. 215.
  40. Ibid., p. 216.
  41. Ibid.
  42. CEE, Directorio de la pastoral familiar de la Iglesia en España (Directory of family ministry of the Church in Spain), LXXXI Plenary Assembly, EDICE, Madrid, 2003, p. 17-18 (Directory #9).
  43. L. González-Carvajal, op.cit., p. 82.
  44. Ibid., p. 84
  45. K. Rahner, Curso fundamental sobre la fe [A fundamental course on the faith}, Herder, Barcelona, 1979, p. 70; referenced by L. González-Carvajal, op.cit., p. 84.
  46. K. Rahner, Palabras de Ignacio de Loyola a un Jesuit today [Ignatius Loyola speaks to a modern Jesuit]; referenced by L. González-Carvajal, op.cit., p. 84.
  47. L. González-Carvajal, op.cit., p. 84.
  48. A. Arregui, “Missiones populares ayer y hoy [Popular Missions, yesterday and today], Diccionario de espiritualidad vicenciana [Dictionary of Vincentian Spirituality], CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 1995, p. 400.
  49. Ibid. p. 400-401
  50. Cf., CCD:XIIIa:298; the text states that the Missionary will seek his own salvation as he ministers on behalf of the salvation of the poor country people. Missionary work sanctifies and fills the individual missionary with life and grace … missionary work fills, perfects and brings the missionary to maturity.
  51. I. Zedde, “Evangelización” in Diccionario de espiritualidad vicenciana, CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 1995, p. 237.
  52. J. Corera, Servir a los pobres es ir a Dios, [To serve the por is to reach out to God], La Milagrosa, Madrid, 1999; the author states that the content of his book is composed of articles that were previously published in periodicals of some of the branches of the Vincentian Family. All of the articles, however, revolve around a central theme that is summarized in the title of the book. The twelve chapters of the book are like twelve variations on the same theme: to minister on behalf of the poor is a Vincentian path that leads us people to God.
  53. Cf., ibid., p. 144-146.
  54. Cf., ibid., p. 144-146.
  55. Ibid., p. 145
  56. Ibid.,, p. 146.
  57. Cf., CCD:XII:71; see also article #10 of the Constitutions and Statutes of the Congregation of the Mission.
  58. Cf. J. Corera, op.cit., p. 147-149; CCD:XII:76-77, 245-235.
  59. Ibid., p. 149
  60. Ibid., p. 153; cf., Common Rules XI:10.
  61. Cf., article 14 of the Constitutions and Statutes of the Congregation of the Mission.
  62. J. Corera, op.cit., p. 153; cf., CCD:XIIIb:49.
  63. Ibid., p. 153.
  64. Ibid., p. 154.
  65. Ibid.